We built this city from molten corn*

I loved model villages and buildings as a kid in the 70s. ‘Sim City’ made city simulation fun again. Thanks to Skimbal, we can make Sim City styled buildings with our printers, and play “Crush, Crumble and Chomp” or Godzilla vs Manhattan on our desks.

Or if you are an unemployed town planner, maybe you could write a set of city planning ordinances with points scored for driving your rival supermarket out of business, reducing food miles, good public transport, and limiting the need for freeways? Turn it into a cut-throat high-finance game, and use these as playing pieces.

I know I said I’d write up some comments on wiring up the Prusa, but printing is such fun! I’ll get to the wiring guide soon.

Skimbal's Sim City Playset - Heavy Industry factory 1

Skimbal's ACME factory showing parked trucks

What amazed me

Skimbal has done a great job of the modelling. There are windows on the sides, and ‘ACME’ in giant embossed letters on the end wall. I printed this model without looking at the thingiverse images closely – it was fun watching it appear out of nothingness.

The small blobs in the bottom left of the shot are trucks. What can you expect when they are only 9 strands of PLA high.

How it could be better

Well, things are a bit stringy where the nozzle jumps from object to object (I guess oozebane and retraction will be the solution here), and the little chimneys on top of the angled rooftops got a bit mushed by the extruder head (that might be solved by ‘cooling’ or a small fan). I’m getting better at this. Look at the prints on the thingiverse page to see what skilled operators can achieve.

How big is it

I took note of the figures Pronterface gave me while it was skinning and printing this model. It took 1 minute 26 seconds to skin it and prepare for printing, and 46.6 minutes to print it. The base it stands on is 46.6 mm square (or should be, mine is 39.5 so I’ve not quite got my x- and y-steps correct), and the whole print is 44.7 mm high.

What it cost

It took 2.3 metres of filament to construct. Faberdashery in the U.K. sells filament by the metre, and for something like the sort I’m using, they charge 30 pence per metre.

So the plastic for my model probably costs around $1 Australian or American. Not counting postage. Except that I think Americans in particular can buy PLA locally cheaper than that.

So for $25 in materials (and 3 days sleep-deprived non-stop printing) I could build a modular Central Business District of 25 various buildings that would cover roughly a square foot, including roadways between the structures.

What next?

My wife desperately wants an ancient Roman playset. Any guru modellers out there with models languishing unloved on a hard-drive? Your public needs you!

And I’ve got to try priming and painting some models. I wonder if artist’s acrylics would bond to PLA?

*The post title is of course a reference to PLA plastic being made out of corn starch. (And a Jefferson Starship song, but they were a bit before my time).

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6 Responses to We built this city from molten corn*

  1. Cath Clark says:

    Hey, I resemble that remark…. Bill had our summer planning workshop playing Sim City back in the late 70s when it was a paper game. No T-Rex’s though, damn.

    • BrazenArtifice says:

      Ah, my google-fu has failed me. I can’t find any references to ‘Sim City’ as a paper game. Did you have little models, or at least pretty pictures, or was it all academically boring text? Most of my most brilliant ideas for making huge amounts of money were done by someone else, often decades earlier!

  2. Cath Clark says:

    Hi, I must not be set up to get Replys to my Replys…. Will see about that. Honestly, I don’t remember, but it was interactive, so there must have at least been a some kind of large paper grid. This was just a couple years ahead of the PC revolution, so we couldn’t even model different scenarios. We elected a mayor & chief planner & council, had a coup; and saw the repercussions of extending roads & utilities ahead of having built-up the CBD & immediate surrounds first. Great lesson on urban sprawl

    • BrazenArtifice says:

      Hi Cath,
      Yes, ‘following’ seems to only send you an email when I put up a new post, not when I (or anyone else) makes a comment.
      If you use an RSS reader (I use RSSOwl) you can follow the comments on any post by copying the ‘RSS – comments’ url from the bottom-right of any page into your RSS reader. Then you’ll know when a new comment is made on that page. This applies to all blogs, not just mine.

      As to the planning simulation, it would be fun as a multiplayer boardgame where all the players have different goals – not necessarily in conflict with each other, just different (getting rich, getting popular, getting re-elected, staging a festival, reviving opera, reducing greenhouse gas emissions…). Then seeing how a common benefit can be found arising from that mixture of incentives. I really like boardgames where all the players work together to beat the ‘looming threat’.

  3. Does your wife mean ‘Roman playset’ in terms of Ancient Rome style columns and arches, or something more like the Sim City set with the Colosseum and Parthenon?

    (Also, I’ve painted a model or two with acrylics, but I always put a layer or two of spray undercoat on first to smooth out the layers a little and make sure the paint isn’t subject to too much capillary action.)

    • BrazenArtifice says:

      I’ve not seen a Roman Version of Sim City. I think Joy would say ‘Yes PLEASE’ to either option!

      Thanks for your comments on model preparation before painting. My google-fu has failed me completely in finding anything useful and detailed about painting PLA. As an experiment yesterday I dripped some drops of artist’s inks onto a spanner printed in clear PLA, and watched as the ink crept into the middle and capillary action sucked it all over the insides. Pretty, but uncontrollable.

      I’ve just this instant finished printing one of your ‘Murder of Cookies’ (Thing# 11251), and I’m about to upload an ‘I made it’ picture to thingiverse. It looks very pretty in clear PLA. I hope you’ve read some Charles De Lint (eg ‘Someplace to be flying’) so you have some sense how happy I was to see this!

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